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The Evolution of Cross-Cultural Trainings

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The Evolution of Cross-Cultural Trainings

Pic Credit: jannoon028

Pic Credit: jannoon028

Since cross-cultural preparation is widely accepted to improve expatriate performance and 83% respondents believe it has good or great value, the lack of a practice that makes the benefit mandatory is disappointing.Brookfield Relocation Report

As you know, I’ve been offering cross-cultural trainings myself, and facilitating programs for global service providers since 2009. I have yet to meet a single expat who thinks it wasn’t worth their time. On the contrary, the feedback is very positive all-round, with both assignee and spouse realizing that investing one or two days in a training has saved them weeks of worry and misunderstandings in settling-in time.

Interestingly, “35% of respondents provided media-based or web-based cross-cultural training – an all-time high. More companies (25%) use it to supplement formal training, and its portability is cited as a chief reason (20%) along with cost (20%).” (Brookfield GRS)

That’s 60 % of respondents using some form of web-based cross-cultural training.

Are you one of the 10 % who exclusively use or have exclusively experienced media-based or web-based training to prepare for your assignment? How effective did you think it was? I can imagine video-conferences and delivering the training in a conversational style. Trainer and expat would see each other, and have some freedom to communicate non-verbally (provided the webcam connection is smooth). I also know that when I’ve facilitated a training where a presentation was given by over the phone, the participants nearly always suggested in-person presenters as an improvement.

When I think about webinars - printed material and narrated slideshows may certainly be appealing to the introvert* assignee, or those who prefer to learn by reading and listening. What about experiential learners or extraverts* though?

Virtual, by definition, is lacking actual human interaction. Can talking to a screen ever be as satisfying as the welcoming handshake, getting up to doodle something on the flipchart, and simple face-to-face communication? The topics we’re dealing can get quite personal in nature, so the relative anonymity when training online might act as a barrier or a lubricant to trusting and sharing, depending on the personality of trainer and assignees.

I wonder what your experience would be comparing online vs. face-to-face. I know that I’ve coached online and it’s worked like magic, but training is not coaching.

The above is assuming there is a live trainer involved in the media- or web-based training delivery. What if they include or allude to self-study courses though? Talking from the extravert perspective now: How, when it’s tough enough to get them into a room with an engaging, personable, experienced professional, are you going to convince your assignees it’s a good investment of their time to go read and do some exercises online? Can you call it a training if it’s tantamount to reading a book?

In summary, using online material to periodically repeat and practice what was learned in a face-to-face training, is something I can get behind. What about you? Looking forward to your comments below!

Thanks and have a good one.

*introverts – one half of the first dichotomy of preferences for energy source as defined by the MBTI®. People with a preference for introversion get their energy from and focus their energy on their inner world of thoughts and experiences. Dealing with the outside world can be draining their energy, they like to think things through.

*extraverts – one half of the first dichotomy of preferences for energy source as defined by the MBTI®. People with a preference for extraversion get their energy from and focus their energy on the world of people and things that surrounds them. Left to their own devices they might get antsy, they prefer talking things over.

(From the archives, first published in April 2010) 

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Is there life off the internet?

1975 Cover I'm 38 this year. I'm only telling you that so you can appreciate that I remember watching the first season of "The Real World" on MTV in 1992. Growing up with 3 state-sponsored German channels, getting cable in my teens virtually blew the lid off my home-town. It expanded my horizon. Not always in a good way, but still.

Reality TV as a concept was in its infancy; The Truman Show wouldn't come out until 1998. I didn't know many people who had a personal computer, and the world-wide web may have been invented, but I didn't know anything about it. Even emailing and using SAP during my apprenticeship years is a blur of black screen with green or white blinking cursors, having to hit the tab key just so to get into the correct field. How I hated doing travel expense reports. I didn't get my first hotmail account until 1997 or 1998 at uni. I resisted purchasing my first mobile phone until 1999, at which point Google had 8 employees and was just moving out of their garage.

OK - you get it, I'm old. And a late-bloomer when it comes to techy stuff. Nuff said.

Paul Miller

So when I read Paul Miller's account of going offline for a whole year, I felt for the guy. He's 27, tech writer for The Verge, Christian, and his essays of trying to find the real him in the real world seem so honest and vulnerable, it's thought-provoking. I started wondering about his generation, and what a difference growing up 10 years later can make.

He unplugged to smell the roses. Tired of the on-and-on-ness of it all. Email, data, websites, projects... and he found that life is on-and-on-ness everywhere, even offline.

Paul says he's been online since he was 12, and eventually it's how he made his living. He was ready for a break. At first, he did everything he thought he was going to do - read books, go the park, ride bikes, play frisbee. But then he stopped and replaced time on the internet with playing videogames or in front of the TV. That's not surprising, because everything new gets old and loses its appeal eventually. It takes work and conscious effort to keep relationships alive and hobbies or work appealing.

His self-reflection is raw, and his "offline" articles are revealing. The one answering the ubiquitous question "but dude, what do you do about porn?" has over 1,000 comments. He learned his problems go deeper than figuring out what's real and what's virtual, and that they manifest themselves differently on- and offline. I think figuring out life and all its components is an ongoing process, and that we're all a little confused and depressed at 27. Paul is trying to move beyond the narrative and actually live his life. Meet a girl. Start a family. He says he'll spend next year more focused on other people, and I wish him joy. Flexing your extraverted Feeling muscles will be challenging and hopefully rewarding. I'm tempted to speculate about his preferences for introversion and how he might harness and nurture his gifts and practice going out to realize his dreams, but in the video he's talking about his therapist so I know he's getting some support already.

I can see how we're defining our identities today by how many followers we have or likes our posts get. We have to reconcile who we are between how we see ourselves and how our profiles get interpreted online. I've written about making our lives less virtual and more "real" before, but I'm no longer sure the two are separate for those of us who are plugged in. Yes, wondering about leaving the web is a very first-world kind of problem, but if that's what's moving us then it's worth exploring.

I am grateful that I had about 18 years of uninterrupted bike-rides, climbing trees, playing outside, weekly trips to the library, hanging out with friends, and swimming in dodgy lakes. I have memories of what life was like before the internet, and perhaps that's what's helping me unplug from time to time. Still, while I don't see value in reality TV today, I wouldn't want to go back to 3 state-sponsored channels either.

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Ideas to make your life less virtual and more real

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Ideas to make your life less virtual and more real

As much as I love my virtual world and bubble of supportive and like-minded bloggers and twitterers, I'm still a raging extrovert at heart who prefers personal interaction nine out of ten times. Remember people? Actual human beings, sometimes smelly and obnoxious yet superbly entertaining? Here are three things I've done this week to meet such creatures, and a virtual bonus.

Before I tell you about the first, attention must be paid to last Saturday night that I so thoroughly enjoyed going out with my girlfriends. The joy, the laughter, the dancing - my bruised toes bear proud witness, and yes, next time I'll wear something more comfortable. Ladies and Gentlemen, if you haven't yet been to participate in the Gay Bingo at the Rose Room in Dallas, I thoroughly recommend it. There's money, CDs, show tickets, T-shirts and lots more to be won, and to round the evening off, you can go dancing at The Round-up Saloon. Meeting lovely lovely Matt and his friends made our night, in case you read this, thanks again for a wonderful time! :-) If you're more into the traditional style, when was the last time you went out with friends to have a game night, or bowled?

The first recommendation I have (not only for extroverts, of course) is joining a Toastmasters club. Founded by Dr. Ralph Smedley in the 1920s, Toastmasters International is a non-profit organization that has helped and continues to attract millions of men and women around the world to improve their communication and leadership skills. Not only do you learn how to give effective presentations, you also practice time management and team work skills. All this takes place in a friendly and supportive environment that welcomes people from all walks of life and levels of shyness. For $4.50 per month, joining a local club is the best possible affordable investment you can make in yourself. Find a club near you, or have your employer sponsor one, and visit as many meetings as you like before making the decision to join. More information here, and you're welcome to ask me, too.

Secondly, I participated in a free workshop held at a local hotel to learn more about how to do business with the Government. Now, the training topic you are interested in can be anything at all. How about photography, or Tango? The point I wanted to make is if you have a few hours to spare during the week or on the weekend or in the evenings that you don't want to spend alone on your couch, check your local listings for free courses that are offered at your colleges, google your topic of interest, and find groups you can join. Some websites to get you started are meetup.com and trainingmagevents.com. For both browsing and marketing purposes, in case you have your own business or want to start one, I invite you to search conferences that are held in your area on allconferences.com. They're organized by field and region, and who knows - you may even talk your boss into sponsoring your next weekend in Vegas.

Last but not least, my friend and role-model Yvonne invited me to another Forum of Expatriate Management (FEM) round table discussion which she facilitated this week. From a professional perspective of somebody eager to learn about the grassroots and backgrounds and corporate needs of their field, a forum like this one is the best place to sit, listen, and take notes. I've written about it before, and can only say the participants don't disappoint. Some new faces, some known ones, another yummie lunch sponsored, by the way, by this company that'll go on my resources list, and I cannot think of a better way to spend a couple of hours. Is there a professional forum available for people in your line of work? Is there anyone you can ask if you have a particular question regarding best practice or successful planning? Why not start with the q&a section on LinkedIn, where you can search and pose questions if you're registered. For those times that the virtual forum is no longer effective, I challenge you to offering a meeting in person in your offices, for example. It's a great way to informally get your hands on the pulse of your industry.

The virtual bonus is virtual, because in my case it's international and via teleconference. By all means, you can make yours an in-person event. It also works as something essential and not only as a premium: the mastermind group. As Napoleon Hill stated in his widely acclaimed bestseller "Think and Grow Rich: (It's) the coordination of knowledge and effort of two or more people, who work toward a definite purpose, in the spirit of harmony. No two minds ever come together without thereby creating a third, invisible intangible force, which may be likened to a third mind." I was invited to one such group by fellow FIGT participants, and last week was our first tele-conference. That one hour of talking to five other like-minded expat coaches has left me energized, motivated and hopeful for the future of this business we're all in, so I thoroughly recommend sharing concerns, exchanging opinions, and providing support in a group with a focus that suits your situation.

Which one activity to aid your personal or professional growth are you going to commit to for the following week?

Til next time, have a good one!

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Image by Beverly Goodwin flickr, Creative Commons License

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